| In Short
Feb. 23: Closing ‘option’
The School Board votes to close three low-performing schools this fall but says
it may not shut them if the community can develop plans for new schools in the
next four months. The board says its move provides options for communities,
but critics call it unrealistic. “How can we recreate a school in four
months when CPS has been unable to do it for years?” asks teachers union
President Marilyn Stewart. Previously, the district closed schools for a year
before re-opening them and accepting students.
Feb. 24: Parochials
The closings of 23 parochial schools could lead to an influx of hundreds of
students at CPS schools that are already overcrowded. Many of the schools that
will close are in Latino communities, where schools are already overcrowded.
Latinos are the fastest-growing segment of CPS enrollment. Principals are bracing
for more students but say they are worried about how to serve newcomers. Only
27 percent of children whose parochial schools close enroll at another Catholic
school, according to an Archdiocese of Chicago spokeswoman.
March 3: Desegregation
Federal attorneys take CPS back to court, saying the district is doing such
a poor job of complying with the desegregation decree that an outside monitor
is needed. CPS contends a monitor isn’t necessary. Federal lawyers say
CPS has not offered sufficient bus transportation to minority students to attend
largely white schools, and has not reallocated enough desegregation money to
racially isolated schools. Court documents also cite other concerns, including
the racial makeup of faculty. (See
San Diego: Reform rollback
The School Board has angered school leaders and the teachers union by eliminating
the jobs of about 170 master teachers, who acted as coaches for classroom teachers
and helped with lesson planning, according to the Feb. 10 San Diego Union-Tribune.
The board also voted to scrap the positions of content administrators, who organized
training and supervised teachers. Both positions were a key component of reforms
championed by outgoing Supt. Alan Bersin, who sought to focus on improving teacher
training and called the board’s decision a mistake. Teachers and principals
said master teachers had helped to raise achievement, and some schools plan
to continue paying for the positions with discretionary funds. The board created
positions for “academic support teachers” who will work only in
low-income schools, primarily teaching small groups of low-achieving youngsters.
New York: Billions for schools
A judge has put a multi-billion-dollar price tag on improving education in the
city’s schools, ordering that $5.6 billion be spent every year to insure
that children receive the ‘sound education’ guaranteed by the state
constitution, according to the Feb. 15 New York Times. The judge, who
has been overseeing a long-running lawsuit over school funding in the city,
also ruled that an additional $9.2 billion be spent over the next five years
to reduce class sizes, relieve overcrowding, update laboratories and libraries
and other improve schools. The legislature will decide how the state and the
city should share the burden of the costs.
“Englewood is like a home to me. You’re trying to
shut down my home. I have teachers who care about me and give me a reason for
coming to school everyday.”
Englewood High School student Latoyia Kimbrough at the Feb.
23 School Board meeting, where the board voted to phase out the school and stop
Can a 15- or 16-year-old student who left school but never graduated
from 8th grade return to school in the middle of the school year?
Sally Polasek, Illinois Dept. of Human Services
Depending on their age, they should be able to return mid-year
to achievement academies, neighborhood elementary schools or high schools. Achievement
academies are meant to transition overage kids (those turning 15 or older by
Dec. 1st but who have not graduated from 8th grade) to regular high schools.
Kids who turn 15 after Dec. 1st must return to their neighborhood elementary
school to finish 8th grade. Returning students who are 16 must take the Iowa
Tests of Basic Skills (ITBS), and score in the 25th percentile to pass 8th grade
and go on to high school. If they do not pass, they should be sent to their
nearest achievement academy. These guidelines apply even to students returning
mid-year, says Ed Klunk of the Office of High School Programs. According to
Grace DeShazer, manager of achievement academies, students can be denied admission
to the academies under certain circumstances. In that case, it rests on the
neighborhood elementary school to accept them, regardless of their age, which
Klunk admits is “not a good situation either way.”
or send it to Ask Catalyst, 332 S. Michigan Ave., Suite 500, Chicago,
African-American students, long the majority in Chicago Public
Schools, are now just less than half of CPS enrollment—49.7%,
according to the 2004 state report card. But that percentage
is the highest of any of the 5 largest districts in the country.
(Chicago is the 3rd largest.) Meanwhile, Hispanic enrollment
in CPS continues to rise and now stands at 38%. Black and Latino
enrollment in the 4 other largest districts is: New York, 35%
and 35%; Los Angeles, 11% and 72%;
Miami-Dade County, Fla. 29% and 58%; and Broward
County, Fla., 37% and 24%.